Election 2020: Gov. Cooper wins reelection, margins tight in several Council of State contests

By: - November 4, 2020 8:05 am

Democrat Roy Cooper was reelected governor Tuesday, fighting back a challenge from Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest who made Cooper’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic a centerpiece of his campaign. 

Democrat Roy Cooper was reelected governor Tuesday, fighting back a challenge from Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest.

In the end, voters rewarded Cooper’s steady leadership during the ongoing crisis while rejecting Forest’s call for a quicker reopening of businesses and schools.

Cooper grabbed 51.49% of the votes cast. Forest trailed with 47.06%, according to the final but unofficial totals. 

Throughout his first term, Cooper has been at odds with the Republican-led General Assembly over tax cuts favored by Republicans, teacher pay raises he found inadequate, and Medicaid expansion. 

On Tuesday, the governor called for an end to the political strife he contends keeps North Carolina from reaching its full potential. As we heal, we must focus on the priorities: affordable health care; public schools that can thrive; clean air and water no matter where you live; a reckoning of the systems that have excluded too many people; a steadfast commitment to strong and safe communities; an economy that will come back stronger for everyone, not just those at the top,” Cooper said. 

Forest also called for healing. “It’s time to pull people together and get beyond political differences and ideological differences and sometimes philosophical differences that separate us,” Forest said. 

Lieutenant Governor 

Republican Mark Robinson defeated Wake County Democrat Yvonne Lewis Holley in a tight race to become North Carolina’s first Black lieutenant governor. 

The historic first was assured because both candidates were Black.  

Robinson, a veteran and businessman from Greensboro, won 51% of the votes. Meanwhile, Holley, a State Representative for the 38th District in Wake County, received 48% of the vote. 

Robinson, a political novice, became a GOP star in 2018 after he made a fiery speech in support of gun rights before the Greensboro City Council. Video of the speech has been viewed millions of times and caught the attention of the National Rifle Association. He continued to stake out controversial — even outrageous — positions on issues throughout the camapign.

By contrast, Holley’s platform included a ban on assault weapons and a call for reform of the criminal justice system. 

Robinson will be only the second African-American to serve on North Carolina’s 10-person Council of State. Ralph Campbell, a Black Democrat elected state auditor in 1993 was the first. Campbell was also the first African-American to hold a statewide elected executive office in North Carolina. 

Superintendent of Public Instruction 

Early Wednesday, Catherine Truitt, a former teacher and chancellor of Western Governor’s University, was leading UNC Greensboro professor Jen Mangrum in a close race for Superintendent of Public Instruction. 

Truitt led the race with 51% of the vote. Mangrum trailed with 48%. 

The winner will replace Mark Johnson, who ran for lieutenant governor but didn’t make it past the primary. 

The race pitted Mangrum, a progressive, public schools advocate against Truitt, a conservative who favors school choice. Truitt has also been critical of Gov. Coopers school reopening plan.  

Here’s a look at the other Council of State races early Wednesday: 

  • In the State Attorney General’s race, Democratic incumbent Josh Stein leads Republican challenger Jim O’Neill by a mere 10,000 votes out of more than 5.3 million thus far counted.
  • Democratic incumbent Beth Wood defeated Republican Anthony Wayne Street in the race for State Auditor. 
  • Republican incumbent Steve Troxler was reelected Commissioner of Agriculture, defeating Democratic challenger Jenna Wadsworth. 
  • Republican incumbent Mike Causey appears poised to defeat Democrat Wayne Goodwin in the race for Insurance Commissioner — Causey leads by around 190,000 votes. 
  • Republican State Rep. Josh Dobson leads Democrat Jessica Holmes by around 90,000 votes in the race to replace Cherie Berry as Commissioner of Labor. 
  • Republican Dale Folwell was reelected State Treasurer, defeating Democratic challenger Ronnie Chatterji, a Duke University economist. 
  • Democratic incumbent Elaine Marshall defeated Republican E.C. Sykes in the Secretary of State race. Marshall has held the seat since 1996. 

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Greg Childress
Greg Childress

Education Reporter Greg Childress covers all aspects of public education in North Carolina, including debates over school funding, curricula, privatization, and teacher pay and licensing.